Five alumni honored with Penn State's Outstanding Science Alumni Award

October 01, 2012

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- In its tradition of honoring high-achieving science alumni, the Penn State University Eberly College of Science will honor five alumni with the Outstanding Science Alumni Award for 2012. Receiving this award are Eliav Barr, Gary R. Fleisher, Howard R. Gordon, Joellen M. Schildkraut and Robert C. Shaler. The Board of Directors of the Eberly College of Science Alumni Society established this award to recognize alumni who have a record of significant professional achievements in their field and who are outstanding role models for students in the college.

Elaiv Barr

Eliav Barr is the vice president of the Infectious Disease Project at Merck Research Laboratories in West Point, Pa. He joined Merck in 1995 and, in 1998, became the head of a clinical program investigating a vaccine to combat the human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes genital warts and has lead to certain types of cancer. He developed the clinical and regulatory strategies for the program, designed and managed 17 clinical studies involving more than 30,000 subjects worldwide, developed a program to evaluate the economic impact and long-term efficacy of the HPV vaccine, and oversaw analyses of key clinical studies. The program resulted in the first demonstration that prophylactic administration of a vaccine targeting HPV types 6, 11, 16 and 18 is effective in helping to reduce the risk of genital warts, as well as cervical, vulvar and vaginal cancer. The vaccine that was evaluated in these studies (GARDASIL, Merck & Co. Inc.) has been licensed in over 100 countries. Currently, Barr is responsible for the leadership of all projects related to infectious diseases and he is the leader for Merck's research-and-development efforts aimed at the hepatitis-C field.

After graduating with a bachelor's degree from Penn State in 1984, Barr earned a medical degree, summa cum laude, at the Jefferson Medical College in 1986 and completed a residency in internal medicine with a cardiology fellowship at Johns Hopkins University in 1990. He subsequently pursued postdoctoral training at the University of Michigan and was a faculty member at the University of Chicago prior to joining Merck Research Laboratories.

More information about Barr is online at

Gary R. Fleisher

Gary Fleisher is a founder of the field of pediatric emergency medicine. He was among the first of eight physicians in the world to obtain certification in this specialty. He co-developed the first academic program in this field in 1979 and initiated the first fellowship program in 1981. In addition, Fleisher is the senior editor of Pediatric Emergency Medicine, which is the first textbook in the field and has been translated into multiple languages. He co-edits Pediatric Emergency Care, the first journal in the field. He also is the editor-in-chief of the section called "Adult and Pediatric Emergency Medicine" at UpToDate, an evidence-based, peer-reviewed information resource. He was one of eight members of the first certification committee for the American Board of Pediatrics and has been an examiner for the American Board of Emergency Medicine. From 2010 to 2011, Fleisher served as the president of the American Pediatric Society.

Fleisher's research has focused on basic and clinical aspects of common infectious diseases encountered in children. His investigations have led to a better understanding of a number of diseases, particularly bacterial infections of the bloodstream and the meninges. Fleisher is the author of more than 150 publications appearing in high-impact journals including the New England Journal of Medicine, the Journal of the American Medical Association, the Journal of Clinical Investigation, the Journal of Infectious Diseases, Pediatrics and the Journal of Pediatrics. He has been recognized widely for his contributions with his election in 1996 to the presidency of the Society for Pediatric Research, one of the oldest and largest pediatric research organizations in the United States; by his selection as a member of study sections at the National Institutes of Health; by his election to the Institute of Medicine; and by invited lectureships and visiting professorships throughout the world.

Fleisher is the recipient of many other awards. He received the Janeway Award for Excellence in Teaching from the residents at Children's Hospital Boston in 1995, the A. Clifford Barger Excellence in Mentoring Award at Harvard Medical School in 2001 and the Mentor of the Year Award from the Eastern Society for Pediatric Research in 2011.

Fleisher received a medical degree from Jefferson Medical College in 1973. He received postgraduate training at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Currently, Fleisher holds certification from the American Board of Medical Specialties in three disciplines: pediatrics, emergency medicine and pediatric emergency medicine.

More information about Fleisher is online at

Howard R. Gordon

Howard R. Gordon, Distinguished Professor of Physics at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla., has extensive expertise in environmental optics, principally radiative transfer in the ocean-atmosphere system. He began his academic career as an assistant professor at the College of William and Mary in Virginia in 1965. In 1967, he became a faculty member at the University of Miami. He has been involved in the global remote sensing of marine phytoplankton, through observation of ocean color from earth-orbiting satellites, from its inception. He developed the atmospheric correction algorithms used by nearly all ocean-color sensors and collaborated in the development of interpretive algorithms for relating the color observations to the concentration of phytoplankton and suspended calcite. His research received nearly continuous funding from both the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the Office of Naval Research for 35 years.

Gordon is a fellow of the Optical Society of America and of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He received the 1982 NASA Public Service Medal and was presented with the Jerlov Award from The Oceanographic Society in 2004.

Gordon received a bachelor's degree in physics in 1961 from Clarkson University. He received master's and doctoral degrees in physics from Penn State in 1963 and 1965, respectively.

More information about Gordon is online at

Joellen Schildkraut

Joellen M. Schildkraut, a professor of community and family medicine and an associate professor of medicine at the Duke University School of Medicine, studies the genetic epidemiology of breast and ovarian cancers. At the Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center, she serves as the leader of the Cancer Prevention, Detection and Control Research Program and she also directs a training grant, funded by the National Cancer Institute, focused on the preparation of scientists for the interdisciplinary environment in population science.

Schildkraut has published more than 130 scientific papers in journals such as Nature Genetics, the American Journal of Epidemiology and the Journal of Clinical Oncology. She has contributed book chapters to several textbooks, including "Principles and Practice of Oncology," "Approaches to Gene Mapping in Complex Human Diseases," "Cancer Studies in Bayesian Statistics" and "Genetics." She has presented her research at scientific symposia and workshops throughout the United States and is a member of the Phi Sigma Biological Honor Society. She has more than a decade and a half of continuous funding from the National Institutes of Health and related organizations.

Schildkraut earned doctoral and master of public health degrees in chronic-disease epidemiology at Yale University in 1987 and 1982, respectively. She earned a bachelor's degree in microbiology at Penn State in 1978.

More information about Schildkraut is online at

Robert C. Shaler

Robert C. Shaler, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at Penn State, retired in 2010 after having served as the founding director of the University's forensic science program since 2005. Shaler is well known for supervising the massive DNA-testing effort to identify thousands of victims of the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks. He is the author of "Who They Were: Inside the World Trade Center DNA Story: The Unprecedented Effort to Identify the Missing," published in 2005, and "Crime Scene Forensics: A Scientific Method Approach," published in 2012.

Throughout his career, Shaler made many important research contributions to the field of forensic science. In 2010, he and Penn State colleague Ahklesh Lakhtakia created an innovative process to reveal hard-to-detect fingerprints on nonporous surfaces. Early in his career, he conducted a study on bloodstain evidence that led to the development of a bloodstain-analysis system that was used as the standard in forensic laboratories until the early 1990s.

As a Penn State faculty member, Shaler is known for his teaching skills and his commitment to solid scientific principles. Shaler also has been dedicated to public outreach and education. In 2008, he led a TV show, "Crime Scene University" on the Investigation Discovery Channel, in which students from Penn State and other universities investigated simulated crime scenes. The online version of this course is available through Penn State's World Campus.

Shaler earned master's and doctoral degrees in biochemistry at Penn State in 1966 and 1968, respectively. In 2003, he received an honorary doctoral degree from the State University of New York at Stony Brook.

More information about Shaler is online at

About the award:

Since the inception of the award in 1995, the Eberly College of Science has honored 73 alumni with the Outstanding Science Alumni Award. This award is given by the College and its Alumni Society to recognize and reward outstanding Penn State science alumni for their success as leaders in science and for the impact they have had and will continue to have on society and their professions. Any person may be nominated for the award who is an alumnus of the Eberly College of Science. Current members of the University faculty or staff are not eligible, nor are prior recipients of the University's Alumni Fellow Award or the Distinguished Alumnus Award.

  • Award winners are, clockwise, from top: Eliav Barr, Gary Fleisher, Howard Gordon, Robert Shaler and Joellen Schildkraut.

    IMAGE: Penn State

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Last Updated October 04, 2012